With the Europa League set to resume this Thursday I’m left wondering just how much of a priority our participation in the competition should be?
Which is a shame after the team worked so hard to achieve qualification for Europe last season, but at the end of the day circumstances dictate and our Premier League circumstance is still not assured for next season.
Generally speaking we’ve made the knockout stages of the Europa League pretty much hassle free using a mixture of youth and reserve players to help us through the group stage. Now we’re in the knockout format though will our approach change and will we see a stronger side? Or will we continue playing the youth and reserve players who have done well enough so far?
Of course we’ve added to the squad since the last time we played in Europe although unfortunately not all of our new additions are eligible to play in the competition. Yoan Gouffran, injury aside, is cup-tied as he’s already played in the competition whilst only one of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Mathieu Debuchy are allowed to be named in our squad for Europe owing to their Champions League participation earlier on in the season with Motpellier and Lille respectively and it was Mbiwa who got the nod. The other two new guys, Moussa Sissoko and Massadio Haidara, along with Mbiwa, make up the three new additions to our Europa League squad.
So just how strong do we go? The only certainty for me is that Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will make his full home debut. Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor have made it hard for the former Montpellier man to come straight into the side domestically so it seems highly likely he’ll get the nod on Thursday to give him some match practice and a chance to showcase his skills and perhaps even stake a claim for a place in the side domestically.
Another player who could feature is Cheik Tiote who had to make do with a place on the bench against Spurs at the weekend. He could line up with Vurnon Anita in midfield meaning that Yohan Cabaye gets a rest. Sylvain Marveaux could come into an attacking midfield role after finding himself, harshly in my opinion, on the bench recently. Massadio Haidara could also make a debut at left-back giving Davide Santon a rest or in the event that he moves to the right-back spot in the absence of Debuchy and Danny Simpson.
We could actually name a pretty strong side whilst at the same time protecting some of our most important players. The side I’ve started drafting above wouldn’t involve players like Yohan Cabaye or Moussa Sissoko ensuring they were kept back for domestic purposes, but it still looks pretty good on paper to start with.
The whole underlying tone behind this article is about protecting the players and keeping them fresh for Premier League duty. Granted we have no league game at the weekend which makes it a bit easier to do so technically I guess we could name a pretty much full-strength side and only have to worry about the risk of injury, but with ten days after the home fixture before we face Southampton it would have to be an injury we worry about and not a simple knock for example.
My point being, and I’ve read it from a few people now, is that it’s all well and good saying we should “attack” the Europa League but it worth attacking so much that we risk losing players that would help us secure Premier League safety? After all, that is the most important thing for this season isn’t it?
What do you think?